What is Ethical, Sustainable Floristry?

What is Ethical

Flowers draw consumer enthusiasm for their beauty, smell, and their ability to brighten any room. However, from a sustainability perspective, the flower industry has long been dogged by environmental issues.
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Carbon Footprint
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About 80% of the flowers people in most Western countries buy are grown elsewhere, notably in equatorial regions—in particular, the countries of Kenya, Colombia, Vietnam, and Ecuador—because these countries have consistent 12-hour days, ample rain, and ideal temperatures.
The problem is that shipping flowers from Africa, South America, and Southeast Asia to Western Europe, the United States and Canada, etc. takes a lot of energy, and that adds up with regard to the carbon footprint.
While there is some controversy about the carbon footprints of flowers grown in Kenya, for example, as opposed to those grown in hothouses in The Netherlands, what is clear is that carbon footprint is an issue worth considering. There are also other environmental concerns.
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Pesticides and Water Pollution
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Pesticides and water pollution are another environmental issue. While ornamental flowers are not bought and sold to be consumed, there are still concerns about the health effects of these pesticides on the workers who cultivate the flowers—workers who are typically not trained how to use these chemicals safely.
The release of massive quantities of pesticides also means trouble for the water and the environment. Run-off from flower fields can contaminate waterways. Run-off can also carry fertilizer, which can end up in waterways and promote algal blooms that in turn become toxic.
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Exploitation in the Supply Chain
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In addition to pesticide exposure, there are other issues regarding the treatment of workers in the flower industry. In countries like Colombia, where 1% of all citizens work in the flower industry, workers are often subject to exploitative and unsafe work environments and make less than a living wage. The sexual coercion and harassment of female workers is a very widespread problem in countries like Colombia in South America and Kenya in Africa.
Child labor is also a concern in some countries and some flower supply chains. Here rose cultivation is the biggest concern, and there have been recently discovered incidents of child slave labor on an Indian rose farm | https://www.ijmuk.org/news/four-boys-rescued-from-slavery-on-a-rose-farm |.
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Waste
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Flowers | Learn more on Commonshare | are purchased and enjoyed for a time, then discarded once they begin to wilt. All of this waste adds up, and not all of it is biodegradable plant matter: bouquets are often wrapped in plastic.
Floral foam, which is commonly used in flower arrangements, is another concern: it is a non-biodegradable, oil-derived plastic material. Floral foam ends up in landfills. There are concerns about toxicity to florists who handle it, and it is thought to produce microplastic wastes.
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Sustainable Alternatives
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Fortunately, there are alternatives for those who want to prioritize sustainability. Buying local is a good way to reduce carbon footprint: by supporting local florists | Learn more on Commonshare |, one can enjoy flowers without having to contribute to a significant release of carbon emissions to bring them from farm to flower arrangement.
Foraging and/or growing one’s own flowers is also a fun and sustainable alternative. One can also buy certified sustainable flowers | Learn more on Commonshare |. The Slow Flower movement | Learn more on Commonshare | and the farmer florists are excellent movements toward sustainability in the flower industry.

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